The Toronto Maple Leafs’ 6-4 win over the Boston Bruins was a big, but costly win. After a mediocre stretch of the season where the Maple Leafs played .500 hockey against teams well below them in the standings, they have now defeated two of the best and hottest teams in the league in three nights.
Comment One: The Game Cost the Team Some Players
However, the Maple Leafs lost a goalie and two top-four defensemen in the process. Petr Mrazek left the game with 12:16 left in the first period with an apparent groin pull. Justin Holl went down after taking a puck to the head with 6:48 left in the second period.
One minute and thirty seconds later, Ilya Lyubushkin’s game ended when he took a sucker punch to the side of the head from Taylor Hall. By the way, it was just announced that Taylor Hall was fined $5,000 for the punch.
The Maple Leafs played the last twenty-five minutes of the game with only four defensemen. Luckily for them, three of the remaining defensemen, Morgan Rielly, T.J. Brodie, and Mark Giordano have plenty of experience playing long minutes. The total ice time for each of the four healthy defensemen was Brodie at 26:05, Rielly at 25:30, Giordano at 22:42, and Timothy Liljegren at 20:54.
Comment Two: The Maple Leafs Were Tired, But They Still Won
The Maple Leafs did allow the Bruins to score three unanswered goals once they went up 6-1. Fatigue had to be a factor as the Maple Leafs were on their third game in four nights with travel in between each game. Thankfully, with the big lead, Maple Leafs’ head coach Sheldon Keefe was able to limit the playing time of his top forwards.
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David Kampf led the forwards in five-on-five ice time with 14:16, Ilya Mikheyev was second with 13:01. Interestingly, Colin Blackwell was third with 11:51. The five-on-five ice time for the top line was Auston Matthews at 10:22, Mitch Marner at 10:18, and Michael Bunting at 9:28.
The scoring for the Maple Leafs was spread out over the four lines as Matthews, Marner, Kampf, Blackwell, Kerfoot, and Rielly all scored goals. Matthews, Marner, and Rielly each added an assist, while John Tavares had two assists.
Comment Three: Mitch Marner Is Becoming More Physical
As we expected, the game was a physical affair with a total of 62 hits being thrown. The Bruins had 35 hits, and the Maple Leafs added 27. Charlie McAvoy led both teams with six hits. Liljegren led the Maple Leafs with four.
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Marner also registered three more hits to give him a total of 24 hits over his last 14 games after only dishing out 14 hits in his previous 43 games. His newfound physicality hasn’t hurt his offense. In Marner’s last 17 games he has 11 goals and 20 assists for a total of 31 points.
Comment Four: Auston Matthews Takes the Lead for the Rocket Richard Trophy
Auston Matthews sniped one more goal, this time on the power play, to give him 49 on the season. Hopefully, he can tally number 50 in front of his home-ice fans on Thursday when the Maple Leafs take on the Winnipeg Jets. Matthews leads the Rocket Richard race by one goal over Leon Draisaitl and sits fifth overall in NHL goal-scoring with 85 points.
Comment Five: Colin Blackwell Has His Best Game for the Maple Leafs
Colin Blackwell had his best game as a Maple Leafs’ player. He scored his first goal and point with the Maple Leafs when he deflected a pass from Jason Spezza into the Boston net behind Jeremy Swayman. He played a total of 14:29 in the game, including 1:15 on the penalty kill and 1:22 on the power play. Blackwell has registered eight hits in his four games with the Maple Leafs.
Keefe made changes on the fourth line going into this game by switching Blackwell to center and moving Jason Spezza to the wing. He also sat Wayne Simmonds and dressed Kyle Clifford. The line seemed much more effective visually with those changes.
Comment Six: The Maple Leafs Are Running Low on Goalies
All of a sudden the Maple Leafs find themselves running out of goalies. Both Mrazek and Jack Campbell are injured. Joseph Woll is out with an upper-body injury. Ian Scott has been on the shelf this whole season. It appears that Michael Hutchinson and Keith Petruzzelli might also be dinged up, too.
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We just read, but can’t confirm, that the Toronto Marlies’ game last night started after Mrazek was hurt. Hutchinson was supposed to start the game but was pulled for precautionary reasons. We’re thinking they didn’t want to risk him injuring himself so he would be available for Thursday to back up Erik Kallgren.
The Toronto Marlies signed two goalies to tryout contracts just to have goalies in their game on Tuesday. These goalies were 27-year-old Talor Joseph out of Trinity Western University in British Columbia and 24-year-old Tavin Grant. Just to show how far they had to dig for a goalie, the only information we can find on Grant indicates that he last played for the Prince George Cougars of the Western Hockey League in 2017-18. Joseph did backstop the Marlies to a 5-3 win over the Abbotsford Canucks on Tuesday.
We know, well at least we hope, that Kallgren is healthy and is likely to get the start on Thursday if Jack Campbell can’t go. We have no idea who the backup might be.
What’s Next for the Maple Leafs?
After seemingly well stocking the shelf with a deep selection of defensemen at the trade deadline, Maple Leafs’ general manager Kyle Dubas might find himself with as many injured defensemen (Holl, Lyubushkin, Jake Muzzin, and Rasmus Sandin) as he has healthy defensemen (Rielly, Brodie, Giordano, and Timothy Liljegren).
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The Maple Leafs may be forced to use two Toronto Marlies against the Jets. We will all find out in two days.
[Note: I want to thank long-time Maple Leafs’ fan Stan Smith for collaborating with me on this post. Stan’s Facebook profile can be found here.]